Retail news from around the world

Macy’s speaks out on Trump tariffs

Macy’s, the largest US department store operator, has revealed that tariffs on Chinese imports are being felt in its furniture business and warned investors that the additional levies now being considered by Washington would leave its clothing and accessory categories vulnerable as well.

“When you do the math, it’s hard to find a path through that wouldn’t impact customers,” said CEO Jeffrey Gennette.

The chain, like many of its peers, has been faltering in recent years. It has closed more than 100 stores since 2015 and cut thousands of jobs as mall traffic plummeted and shoppers switched to online competitors.

Macy’s is one of the first retailers to comment publicly on the damage that President Donald Trump imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China – another US$300 billion worth of goods is mooted – could have on business.

Gennette said that Macy’s had already worked hard to reduce reliance on Chinese suppliers.

Kohl’s eyes At Home Group

US department store operator Kohl’s has approached At Home Group to express interest in acquiring the US home decor retail chain, Reuters reports.

A deal would help Kohl’s expand its customer base, which focuses on women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, and boost its presence in the home goods category, which has traditionally accounted for just a small part of its business.

At Home Group has been exploring a sale for the last three months, and is already in advanced deal negotiations with private equity firms, including Hellman & Friedman.

Investors were pleased by the Kohl’s rumours, sending shares of At Home Group as much as 16 per cent higher on the news to US$23.84, giving the company a market value of more than US$1.5 billion.

Online giants duel on deliveries

US Walmart is stepping up its battle with Amazon, offering one-day delivery without a shipping fee just weeks after Amazon announced a similar offer.

Walmart’s offer applies to fewer products than Amazon’s, but as many as 220,000 frequently purchased items – ranging from laundry detergent to toys and electronics – will qualify for one-day shipping.

The deal will be available to online shoppers in Phoenix and Las Vegas immediately and then expand to Southern California in the coming days. From there it will roll out to cover about 75 per cent of the country by the end of this year.

Walmart joins anti-tariff chorus

Walmart has joined other retailers, notably Macy’s, in announcing that prices will have to rise due to higher tariffs on goods from China.

Many of Walmart’s vendors have already started to raise prices, among them Del Monte Foods, which supplies it with fresh and packaged goods, including mandarin oranges imported from China. Prices will go up again with tariffs rising.

Del Monte CEO Greg Longstreet told Reuters, “It’s not just tariffs. Transportation costs are up, labour costs are up. It’s an inflationary environment. A lot of that’s going to have to be passed on. The consumer is going to have to pay more for a lot of critical goods.”

Walmart CFO Brett Biggs said the retailer has not seen signs of a slowdown in consumer spending. However investors and analysts expect US spending to slow this year against a backdrop of rising debt, tariffs and economic uncertainty.

Amazon gets creative on collection

Amazon has teamed up with British clothing chain Next to offer a network of stores where the US online retail giant’s UK customers can collect their parcels.

It is offering a similar service in Italy, where its partners are bookstore chain Giunti and the network of Fermopoint and SisalPay stores.

Meanwhile in India, Amazon faced a social media backlash after toilet seat covers and other items emblazoned with images of Hindu gods were spotted on its website.

Thousands of Twitter users backed a call for a boycott, making #BoycottAmazon India’s top trending topic on Twitter.

The episode is reminiscent of an incident in 2017 when the Indian government took Amazon to task after its Canadian website was spotted selling doormats resembling India’s flag.

Sweden launches driverless truck

A driverless electric truck began daily freight deliveries on a public road in Sweden in what developer Einride and logistics customer DB Schenker described as a world first.

The large vehicle, called a T-Pod, resembles the helmet of a Star Wars stormtrooper. It weighs 26 tonnes fully laden and will move goods between buildings on an industrial estate.

The vehicle is not entirely autonomous, as a remote operator will oversee it from a control room while it works.

Robert Falck, the CEO of Swedish start-up Einride, said the company was in partnership talks with major suppliers to help scale production and deliver orders, and the firm did not rule out future tie-ups with large truckmakers.

“This public road permit is a major milestone, and it is a step to commercialising autonomous technology on roads,” the former Volvo executive told Reuters.

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